Safety audit reveals bus stations unsafe

By Carolyn Shimmin

A safety audit of bus stations in Ottawa shows safety for women is not up to par.

The Women’s Action Centre Against Violence (WACAV) presented a safety audit report of OC Transpo bus stations to the director of transit services Nov. 28. The report looked at 12 bus stations and outlined concerns of women.

“When OC Transpo does these audits they send out an expert, some six-foot-tall man who isn’t necessarily a vulnerable person,” said Louise Mailloux, president of the WACAV.

Valerie Collicott, the policy and administration co-coordinator says the project of the WACAV began after a woman called the centre and said she had been raped at Lebreton Station.

“We approached OC Transpo and they were quite cooperative in joining safety reports,” says Collicott.

The 12 bus stations that were audited were Queensway, Iris, Lees, South Keys, Tunney’s Pasture, Westboro, Place d’Orleans, St. Laurent, Billings Bridge, Dominion, Heron, and Blair. The Action Centre put up flyers around the stations suggesting a date and time for women to meet and tour the station to voice their concerns about safety. The results were quite alarming.

In many of the stations, emergency devices, yellow boxes with a button and speaker to communicate in times of trouble, were not clearly marked.

And the women discovered that not all attendants on the other end were bilingual nor did they know from which station they were calling.

“If you were in an emergency situation, you might not remember where you are or have the time to talk,” said Mailloux.

Another concern for the centre was accessibility.

Elevators were not clearly marked, sidewalks were too narrow for wheelchairs and signs were not clear or written in braille for those with visual impairments.

Lighting was also a big concern because Mailloux says it leads to women not feeling safe in their own environment. Also, entrapment sites, meaning open containers where people could hide or be hidden, such as the large boxes to store salt left at each station, were a major concern.

One of her concerns is there are not enough security people walking around the station. She says there are not enough security cameras to make people feel safe.

“I’m very interested in the various details of the report. It is a good thing to have community opinions,” says Gord Diamond, director of Transit Services. “We’ve been working on lighting the physical space of the new train stations and Mackenzie Bridge.”

The project began 15 months ago and the Women’s Action Centre Against Violence was given $10,000 to fund the initiative.

The Women’s Centre Against Violence is a community-based organization that works in collaboration with organizations and individuals in Ottawa to prevent and end violence against women. They say the audits were an opportunity to raise people’s awareness of violence against vulnerable groups such as women and those with disabilities.

Safety audits can also promote a change in attitude and behaviours that could potentially lead to violence.

Blair station was their pilot project in 1999. Mailloux says OC Transpo still hasn’t made all the changes they wrote on the draft sent to OC Transpo after the audit.

“They are a bit slow on implementing the recommendations,” says Mailloux.

Diamond says that it will take up to two years to implement the suggestions.

Collicott wants the momentum to continue.